Every year, tens of thousands of men and women are raped, sexually assaulted, and sexually harassed by active duty servicemembers. Since 2011, Protect Our Defenders has been working hard to reform the military justice system to ensure that victims are protected from their assailants and from retaliation by their chain of command and fellow servicemembers. Over the years, it has become apparent that victims – military and civilian – are not always informed of the rights that are afforded to them. Protect Our Defenders is launching Know Your Rights in order to provide a comprehensive resource to both active duty and civilian victims of military sexual violence, sexual harassment, and retaliation.
Military sexual violence is a term that encompasses any unwanted sexual act that is perpetrated by a member of the U.S. military on another servicemember, dependent, federal employee, or civilian. “Unwanted sexual contact” can include rape, sexual assault, groping, stalking, or the distribution or creation of a recording of a sexual act without consent from both parties.
If you have experienced military sexual violence, harassment, and/or retaliation you are not alone, and you have rights. The military OR civilian authorities can investigate and prosecute crimes that were committed by a servicemember while on active duty. You do not need to be a servicemember in order to report a crime to the military, and thus have the option to do so. Likewise, active duty servicemembers have the right to report a crime to the civilian authorities. Your rights in the military justice system depend on your status:
In Fiscal Year 2019, only 138 offenders were convicted of a nonconsensual sex offense across all five service branches. This translates to an overall conviction rate of 2.4%. Although the military claims that it takes a hard line against sexual violence, victims are not getting the justice they deserve. In the last decade we have made incredible strides in fighting for the rights of military sexual assault victims – including winning a Supreme Court decision that eliminates the statute of limitations for military rape prosecutions. We find that the more informed victims are of their rights, the better equipped they are to ensure that they receive justice.
Here at Protect Our Defenders, we provide legal assistance to people who have been sexually assaulted, sexually harassed, or raped by active duty servicemembers. Please see below for a list of resources for those who have been sexually assaulted by a civilian.
Office of Justice Programs: Search for Specific Victims’ Rights Laws/Statutes
Office for Victims of Crimes: U.S. Resource Map of Crime Victim Services & Information
National Immigrant Women’s Advocacy Project: Rights for Immigrant Victims of Sexual Assault
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services: Rights for Immigrant Victims of Domestic Violence
Office on Violence Against Women: Local Resources for Victims of Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, and More
National Women’s Law Center: Title IX Rights for Victims of Sexual Assault on College Campuses
American Immigration Council: Protections for Noncitizen Women and Victims of Crime